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“Bettr Barista” Changing Lives One Cup Of Coffee At A Time

There are challenging cases.

"We had a young man, his entire family was in prison. And he was on probation. When he came in here, we worked really, really hard with him for two years. Then he slipped and eventually left. He got a girl pregnant but they are married now, and he is about to become a father. He's picked himself up and is back at work as a barista.

"We are hopeful that the work we've done with him has given him a stronger foundation to cope with his current situation. Hopefully, he doesn't repeat the mistakes of his parents with his own child."

But there are many whose lives have taken a turn for the better. Ms Chng points to a wall in her academy with pictures of them.

There is Jo, and Chetra, a cleaner who took a bus for the first time when she went to register at the academy. She was 45 then, and now works in a cafe.

Then there is Shirley, a mother of two. She had her first child at 15, and the second at 16. She is now learning to become a trainer.

They are among the 33 who have come through Bettr Barista's doors. The numbers may not seem like a lot, but the help they get also impacts their dependants, who total more than 100, said Chng.

"Every one of them has literally transformed. There are still many challenges they're dealing with. Their external situations haven't necessarily gotten better, but with the work we've done with them, they are making progress on being able to cope with their lives.

"It takes a certain inner strength to be able to do this.

"And their courage makes us courageous. If they can do it, what do we have to complain about? We have food on our table, we have a roof over our heads, we have our health, we've got our family.

"Singapore is not perfect, we have our problems but we have a lot to be grateful for. And instead of complaining all the time, and putting the blame or the responsibility of change into somebody else's hands, Singaporeans have great power to change things for the better."

Her work has already earned recognition, both here and abroad.

Bettr Barista was the start-up of the year at last year's President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award. Chng has been held up as a role model by Ashoka, the world's largest network of social entrepreneurs, alongside the likes of India's Kailash Satyarthi, the co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Her firm was also Singapore's first recipient of the Arthur Guinness Fund -- the social arm of the brewery -- in 2012.

And it all started after she found the confidence to be herself. "Change yourself," she said, "and the world will change around you."

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